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U. to add HBO, HBOGO to Philo television service

Student input central to addition of more than 10 new channels to Philo for streaming

Students will soon be able to access HBO and dozens of other channels in high definition as a result of updates to the University’s TV/DVR system, Philo, that will take effect over winter break, wrote Residential Council Co-Chairs Ryan Lessing '17 and Heather Sabel '17 in an email to students on Wednesday.

Philo is undergoing three major changes, all of which are scheduled to be completed by Jan. 20, Lessing said. In addition to adding HBO and its on-demand streaming service HBO GO, Philo is converting all of its channels to HD. Previously, only over-the-air local broadcast channels, such as ABC and NBC, were in HD. Finally, the list of channels offered through Philo is changing. Over 10 new channels will join the line-up, and others will be removed.

Philo can only be accessed using the University's wifi network, and only students who live on campus have full access to the 60 channels Philo provides for Brown. Off-campus students, faculty and staff members only have access to over-the-air broadcast channels and a few foreign language channels, Lessing said. Once added, HBO GO will be accessible without using Brown’s network, though this addition may not be finalized until after Jan. 20.

According to Lessing, who helped decide the channel changes, the switches in the line-up were the result of several student requests, and many were sports channels.

“We’ve gotten student requests for channels that weren’t available to us when we first picked the channel list two years ago when Philo was first introduced,” Lessing said.

Before switching to Philo two years ago, Brown used Internet Protocol television, a service Lessing called “terrible in a lot of ways” because users “had to be physically plugged into the internet for it to work.” The service also only supported about 20 channels, according to Lessing, while Philo delivers 60 channels to Brown students.

The council incorporated student input, data from Philo and information on the availability of channels to decide which channels to add to the 60-channel line-up and which ones to remove.

“We looked at data about what the viewership numbers were,” Lessing said. “We looked at the coverage of different kinds of programming; we looked at potential redundancies or content that wasn’t going to be interesting to students.”

According to Ravi Pendse, vice president for computing and information services, typically 500 to 600 people are using Philo at a given time. During special events such as elections and the Super Bowl, viewership spikes, he said.

Though these numbers are higher than when IPTV was in place, Lessing believes the numbers can still climb. “One of the things we’re hoping to do with this (is get) people excited about the HBO news and take this opportunity to remind people that it exists and how to use it,” he said.

Residential Council Co-Chair Heather Sabel ’17 corroborated Lessing’s comments, as she hopes these changes will attract more viewers.

“We’re hoping to raise awareness” of Philo and that “more people will watch,” Sabel said. “Our goal was to make the channel lineup as appealing as possible.”

Though the CIS spearheaded the change from SD to HD alongside the Office of Residential Life, Pendse said students are the reason behind the changes in the channels being offered. “The CIS takes great pride in listening to and responding to the needs of the Brown community,” he said.


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